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EPA Targets Refineries Emissions

An EPA proposal would, for the first time, require monitoring of air concentrations of benzene around the fenceline perimeter of petroleum refineries to assure that emissions are controlled and these results would be available to the public.

The proposed update to the toxic air pollution standards for petroleum refineries would further reduce toxic pollution from flaring and other processes and includes new monitoring requirements.

Exposure to toxic air pollutants, such as benzene, can cause respiratory problems and other serious health issues, and can increase the risk of developing cancer, the agency says.

The proposal would also require upgraded emission controls for storage tanks including controls for smaller tanks; performance requirements for flares to ensure that waste gases are properly destroyed; and emissions standards for delayed coking units, which are currently a significant unregulated source of toxic air emissions at refineries.

When these proposed updates are fully implemented, EPA estimates toxic air emissions, including benzene, toluene, and xylene, would be reduced by 5,600 tons per year. Volatile organic compound emissions would be cut by approximately 52,000 tons per year.

Additionally, these updates will have no noticeable impact on the cost of petroleum products at the approximately 150 petroleum refineries around the country, the agency says.

The EPA will take comment on the proposal for 60 days and plans to hold two public hearings, near Houston and Los Angeles. It will finalize the standards in April 2015.

Emissions from refineries dropped in 2012 – from 178 to 173 mmt CO2e – after holding steady from 2010 to 2011, according to EPA data published in October.

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